Surviving the Media Meltdown: Media Guy Readers Have Their Say

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In a recent column titled "Topic A in Rapidly Shrinking Medialand: What's Your Plan B?" I asked for reader feedback, but I wasn't quite prepared for the flash flood of responses. I'd written about how, due to the seismic shifts in the media economy -- and exacerbated, of course, by the global recession -- just about every person I know in this business is facing something of an identity crisis. The angst I expressed in my column clearly inspired some soul-searching. Judy Pollack, this publication's managing editor, called the result a mash-up: Ad Age + "In Treatment." At times, though, poring over my e-mail, I wanted something much more immediate than the talking cure; I wanted a pill -- or a stiff drink -- because I was feeling almost bipolar: hopeful and inspired one moment, deeply mournful the next.

This column kicks off what I'm calling Plan B Week -- which is sort of like Discovery Channel's Shark Week, but with (slightly) less gore. More reader response, culled from the Media Guy e-mailbox, will appear each day this week at

Shark Week
Photo: Discovery Channel
ROUGH WATERS: It's Plan B Week -- sort of like Shark Week, but with (slightly) less gore.
Surviving the Media Meltdown:
Plan B Week: Day 2

Bruce Brandfon, VP-publisher of Scientific American, writes, "There's no going back to the good old days when the media was in control of the audience rather than the other way around. But the truth is 'you get what you pay for,' whether it's media or 18-year-old, single-malt scotch. While anything and everything is available in the media today, some portion of it is actually worth exactly what the audience is paying for it (i.e., nothing). The challenge for all of us in the industry is finding new, exciting, creative, engaging, informative, entertaining ways of delivering content to our various audiences in whatever 'form' they wish to receive it, and sustaining a profitable business model. Bloggers working for free are not, in my opinion, going to replace David Halberstam. Quality does count (at least I hope so), and audiences that are searching for quality can find it. Let's hope that these discerning audiences are willing to pay for it, or advertisers recognize that the kinds of audiences that are attracted to quality content are worth paying (more) for."

Seth Gross writes, "We all have to be flexible and not fear change. Maybe we all need to find new day jobs and let our creativity come out in other ways. What's clear is that media and advertising companies will look very different moving forward as this depression deepens and even as it dissipates. I've been a professional screenwriter and freelance copywriter for nearly 20 years. I've won an Emmy and worked on the digital campaigns of major movies. And yet I'm seriously considering transitioning into a SEM or SEO position."

J. Todd Foster, the managing editor of the Bristol Herald Courier in Bristol, Va., writes, "I've got no Plan B, I'm afraid. I'm riding this ship to the bottom of the ocean. The bottom is just a lot closer than I thought."

Holly Brady, the director the Stanford Professional Publishing Courses program at Stanford U, writes, "While traditional media companies on the East Coast are shedding their work forces like there's no tomorrow (and for those companies there may be no tomorrow), we on the West Coast are seeing the birth of a new media industry with no roots in the world of traditional media. These folks are experimenting with web video, blogging tools, RSS feeds, mash-ups, crowdsourcing, user-generated content and the like to create a new kind of publishing. The business models of these little start-ups are not robust enough to support large media conglomerates housed in 50-story buildings in Manhattan, but there will be companies growing out of this chaos that will have significant muscle in 10 years. If I were creating a Plan B, I'd start publishing something today under my own personal brand and keep learning as I go. Where there is chaos, there is great opportunity."

Marilyn Lee, a marketing specialist at Montana-based Overwatch Geospatial Systems, writes, "I've been waiting for a story like this. I am relatively new in the marketing world (two years), first working at a newspaper as an advertising assistant and now as a marketer for a software-development company. It's a very scary time to be in this business, especially as a newbie without much experience. ... I am planning on going back to school for a master's in integrated marketing communications, although in the back of my mind I'm screaming, 'What are you doing? Find a safer career!!' The problem is I love what I do. I've explored other options, but nothing holds my interest the way marketing and public relations can. Instead of another career path, my Plan B has been to network with other professionals, to ask for more responsibilities at work and to refrain from burning any bridges. ... And for right now, I'm holding on to my job for dear life."

Valarie Anderson, former publisher of the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine, left the print-media business last September and writes to say she's "glad to be watching the massacre from the sidelines. ... The catharsis of extracting my identity from my job title is liberating and powerful, and slowing down enough to even see where I have been in the last decade is part of the process of discovering where I am going. My fashion background has taught me to look seasons, if not years, ahead, and I feel sorry for my old colleagues who are desperately trying to resuscitate the print-ad body that's dead but not cold yet. Creative destruction is necessary for progression, and those not wide-eyed to the opportunities, to be part of an exciting new world, I am afraid are hopelessly sunk. ... Embracing change is my Plan B."

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